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It’s All Upbeat in New Jersey’s Offshore-Wind Update Despite Cost

Lawmakers are briefed on goals and prospects for NJ’s clean-energy industry. Positive financial return and new jobs are emphasized

Offshore wind
Credit: Creative Commons

New Jersey is at the center of a developing offshore-wind industry along the East Coast, ideally situated to reap the economic benefits of a rapidly growing sector, legislators were told yesterday.

With the nation’s most aggressive offshore-wind targets in the nation and some of its most abundant wind resources, New Jersey aims to be a national leader in developing the clean energy, according to officials and consultants.

“Every dollar invested in clean energy today will provide us with tremendous returns on new economic activity,’’ Board of Public Utilities president Joseph Fiordaliso told the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

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The committee, getting a briefing on the status of the state’s offshore-wind goals, heard a rundown on the spate of wind farms proposed for up and down the Eastern Seaboard, as well as the declining costs of building wind turbines off the coast.

“The price for offshore wind is more economical than originally anticipated,’’ said Fiordaliso, when pressed on how much it would cost ratepayers.

Cost is the big issue

Massachusetts recently had a solicitation that cost $65 a megawatt hour, he noted, down from the triple-digit numbers of earlier projects. That translates to about 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour for customers.

“I don’t expect to get that number here,’’ he said, suggesting other factors will boost the cost. Others suggested New Jersey’s focus on creating jobs associated with the industry might increase the cost.

With Gov. Phil Murphy pushing a goal to have 100 percent of the state’s power come from clean energy by 2050, the cost of achieving that target is emerging as a big issue. Some fear offshore wind, more expensive than conventional sources, could increase already steep energy costs in New Jersey.

BPU Joseph Fiordaliso
Credit: Amanda Brown
Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the BPU

“The ultimate goal is to achieve the lowest cost for the New Jersey ratepayer at the best value for the state,’’ Fiordaliso said.

There will be plenty of jobs created by the sector — given the number of projects planned not only by New Jersey, but other states along the Eastern Seaboard from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

Lots of jobs…

If all the projects planned by those states are built out, it should create 96,000 jobs by 2030, according to Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind. New Jersey is going to have more than its fair share of those jobs, she said.

“New Jersey is leading…absolutely,’’ Burdock told lawmakers. The governor’s commitment to follow up a 1,100-megawatt current solicitation for offshore wind this fall, with 1,200-MW solicitations in 2020 and 2022 sent a strong signal to the industry.

“They are looking to make investments in New Jersey,’’ Burdock said.

In the immediate future, the state will not gain many manufacturing jobs associated with building a billion-dollar wind project, experts said. Wind turbines will be shipped here from Europe until at least 2020 when up to 4 gigawatts of wind farms are online, Burdock said.

But New Jersey has opportunities in making the foundations, towers and steelwork needed for the wind farms, as well as cable lines as the wind sector matures.

Port facilities are key

“The promise of 3,500 MW is what is going to drive the initial market and also bring the initial market to New Jersey,’’ said Richard Baldwin, a consultant with Ramboll, a Danish firm hired by the state to develop a strategic plan for offshore wind.

A key attraction of New Jersey is its existing port facilities, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Paulsboro. There are other port opportunities at power-plant brownfields in Perth Amboy, as well as potentially the recently shuttered Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, Baldwin said.

There are not enough specialized port facilities for the huge vessels that will be shipping outsized materials, like 100-meter wind turbines, to the wind farms, he said. For instance, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge is too low to accommodate those vessels, he said.

“Everything is logistics, logistics, logistics,’’ Baldwin said. “We start building these things, it is going to be the dance of the elephants.’’

The hearing occurred a day after the Trump administration announced a new auction for offshore leases off the coast of Massachusetts and started a process to hold the first-ever auction off the coast of California.

Meanwhile, Murphy announced a German firm, EnBW Energie-Baden-Wurttenberg, will be opening an office to develop offshore wind in Jersey City later this year.

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